Understanding Psychological Testing and Assessment
As a valuable data point in making any selection decision, psychometric assessments are likely to be something you will come across at some point in your career. Knowing what to expect and understanding the role psychometric tests play in selection decisions will support you in performing at your best.
So what is a psychological test?
A psychological test is an objective and standardised measure of an individual’s mental and/or behavioural characteristics.
Psychological assessment is similar to psychological testing but usually involves a more comprehensive assessment through integrating information from various psychometric tests such as personality, ability, job specific skills or motives and values. A psychological assessment can often involve an interview in which psychometric data is validated against your presentation at interview.
Why do employers use psychometric assessment?
Psychometric assessments provide insights and inferences which can help employers arrive at a hypothesis about a person and their behaviour, personality and capabilities. In an organisational setting it is therefore used as a tool to help predict on the job performance.
Each test is designed for a specific purpose and the use of a particular test will vary according to the objectives of assessment. Some broad distinctions between different categories of tests can be made as follows:
Personality Questionnaires are designed to understand how you prefer to interact and engage with others, your thinking style and approach to problem solving, as well as your likely emotional reaction to situations you may encounter in the work environment. There are generally no right or wrong answers to a personality questionnaire; instead, they are designed to identify your innate or preferred way of behaving in a situation.
Ability Tests are designed to measure your intellectual capacity to undertake a particular job. The most commonly used ability tests are measures of verbal reasoning (the ability to comprehend, interpret and draw conclusions from oral or written language), numerical reasoning (the ability to comprehend, interpret and draw conclusions from numerical information), abstract reasoning (the ability to recognise patterns in disparate pieces of information and to exercise lateral thinking).
The test battery you complete may also include job specific skills testing (such as filing, data entry, marketing concepts or business communication). Questionnaires to understand your values and other work factors which are likely to motivate or de motivate you are also commonly used in an occupational setting.
Although psychometric assessment is an important part of the selection process, it should only ever be used as one part of the puzzle. Your results should therefore only be used in conjunction with other pieces of ‘evidence’ such as that from your resume, job interview or reference checks.